All public school children must have equal access to a high quality education regardless of where they live in Minnesota.




Legislative Update  
A c ommunication for education advocates in SEE districts.
March 8, 2019  
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Taxpayer relief for school levies  
One of SEE's top priorities is lowering the taxpayer cost for school levies in low-property wealth school districts through equalization. Read more.  This week, the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA), otherwise known as the watchdog on government programs and activities, released a report on the effectiveness of the debt service equalization program for voter-approved building bonds. The OLA found that debt service equalization had badly eroded over time.  At the height of the equalization's effectiveness in 1997, the state paid 11% of all debt service, but now it only pays 3%. Over this period, the inflation-adjusted funding decreased by 64%, resulting in a drop from 131 eligible school districts that received debt service equalization to just 34 districts today.  OLA Summary ,   Full details .
 
The OLA report provides significant justification for the Legislature to provide more funding for equalization, not just for the debt service but also for operating revenue from voter-approved referendums. Four bills have been heard in committee on equalization, two in the Senate and two in the House. You can see if your district would see property tax relief in this comparison of the four equalization bills .
 
We are seeing some momentum on equalization this year. It will all come down to finding an on-going funding stream. The Senate seems poised to go with Senator Carla Nelson's (R-Rochester) equalization bill, HF1237 , but probably will fund it at a lower level than shown in the comparison . Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), Chair of the Senate Tax Committee, indicated a willingness to use money from his tax budget as advocated by SEE. Property tax relief should not be in direct competition with dollars that can go to the classroom through the education committee's budget. Things are similarly shaping up in the House. The goal is to have both tax chairs include equalization in their tax omnibus bills.  
 
What can you do?  If your district benefits from equalization, keep up the pressure by connecting your legislators. For anyone that would like to support equalization, send your legislators a brief email. You can use this SEE equity position paper for talking points and find contact information for your state senator and representative. If you talk about specific bills, include the HF or SF bill numbers, which you will see in the comparison .   Cut and paste the following key committee chairs and leadership in any emails: sen.roger.chamberlain@senate.mn , sen.paul.gazelka@senate.mn , sen.carla.nelson@senate.mn , rep.paul.marquart@house.mn , rep.melissa.hortman@house.mn , rep.jim.davnie@house.mn .
Snow day relief
SF1743 (Nelson-R) - The snow day relief act passed on the Senate floor yesterday on a 61-2 vote. The bill would allow all days lost to snow or wind chill cancellations this year to count toward the minimum instructional days required for students. HF1982 (Christensen-R) is the House companion bill but was amended to forgive just three specific days (read the new language) and should get to the House floor for a vote next week. A conference committee will work out the differences. Read more . I know many school districts have provided feedback to their legislators on this issue, but if not, now is the time to do so. Cut and paste the following bill authors and key committee chairs in any emails: sen.carla.nelson@senate.mn , rep.shelly.christensen@house.mn , rep.cheryl.youakim@house.mn
Education policy bills
HF1954 is Governor Tim Walz's education policy bill. It's a sparse bill with most of the provisions merely clarifying or technical, which have little impact on schools. The bill does contain several substantive items such as requiring schools to establish school threat assessment teams, adding policy with the intent to minimize suspensions, expulsions and student withdrawals through nonexclusionary practices and procedures, and prohibiting school from denying a student lunch and banning schools from stigmatizing or demeaning students when trying to collect unpaid lunch debt. The last two provisions found bipartisan agreement and were contained in the behemoth budget omnibus bill that was vetoed last year. Thus, they will likely become law, in some form, this year. SEE Summary of HF1954 .
 
The policy committee deadline is next Friday, March 15. Despite hearing an overabundance of policy bills, hopefully, the committees will follow in the Governor's footsteps and produce restrained policy bills. Policy decisions are best made at the local level where the school board, administration, and teachers can better balance the unique needs of each school district.
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. 

Regards,

Deb Griffiths
Schools for Equity in Education
Director of Communications and Community Outreach
612-309-0089
www.schoolsforequity.org